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Unit information: Jurisprudence in 2021/22

Unit name Jurisprudence
Unit code LAWD20004
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Burnside
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Jurisprudence aims to enhance the understanding of law by considering the nature of law from general analytical, normative and empirical perspectives. Students will be expected to grapple with complex theoretical positions and should thereby be enabled to exercise critical judgment in their study of law and demonstrate the relationship between particular aspects of law and their theoretical foundations. The unit will cover theories of adjudication, theories of legal systems, the analysis of legal concepts, the moral purpose of law, theories of justice and the sociology of law. Liberal, Marxist, feminist and post-modern critiques of law will be considered. Students will be expected to read theoretical texts closely, summarise arguments succinctly and clearly, and engage in debate, both oral and written, concerning current controversies within jurisprudence.

Jurisprudence attempts to answer some important general questions about the nature of law. We will look at a variety of attempts to answer these questions focusing on the Western philosophical tradition. Specifically we will consider answers to the following questions:

  • What is jurisprudence?
  • What is a legal system?
  • Does law have any necessary moral purpose?
  • How should judges decide cases?
  • What are rights?
  • What is justice?
  • What is the role of law in modern society?
  • Whose interests does the law serve?

The skills that jurisprudence aims to develop are the ability to master abstract thought, thinking and speaking about law in general categories. It should help you to expose the presuppositions and assumptions of lawyers, and evaluate competing theoretical approaches to law. You should be enabled to place law in the wider context of human affairs. You will be expected to be familiar with the ideas outlined in the unit contents, and to achieve the unit objectives . However, in short, the general skills which this jurisprudence unit specifically seeks to enhance are the critical analysis of texts and oral argument.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  • Describe various answers to general questions about law;
  • Identify different approaches to answering such questions;
  • Evaluate other authors’ criticisms of these theories;
  • Contextualise these theories in both a historical context and with reference to other substantive areas of law;
  • Communicate the above, both in written and oral forms.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Information

1 x summative assessment: Timed Open Book Assessment with a specified word count (100%)

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. LAWD20004).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.